Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Chapelhay Tavern, Weymouth, Dorset


The old harbour area of Weymouth is probably most peoples idea of holiday heaven. A lively, foodie, spill out on the pavement kind of place, and an ideal evening hang-out after a long day crackling in the sun on the towns endless sandy beach. Unfortunately I was only in Weymouth for a day which is not nearly enough time to try everything the town has to offer, so the pubs and eateries of the Quay would have to wait for another day. On this occasion I was just passing through, on my way from the undoubted pleasures of the beach to a 'higher place' overlooking the harbour.

An off the beaten track backstreet boozer is more my idea of heaven anyway, and the Chapelhay Tavern falls firmly into this category. The pub is easiest to find by walking up past Holy Trinity Church from North Quay on a steep footpath which leads directly to the pubs front door. Mid-afternoon on a weekday is never going to be the time to see a pub at its full swinging best, but a handful of locals made me very welcome, and a cool pint of Thatchers Traditional Cider sealed the deal for an hour or two away from the sun, sea, and ice cream.


Shuffle Zone - the pubs Domino Table
One reason I was particularly keen to visit the Chapelhay was in the hope of seeing a rare and unique pub game only found in this area of south Dorset. The local version of Shove Halfpenny is confined almost exclusively to the Swanage/Purbeck area, and is very different to the game of the same name found in the rest of the country. Sometimes known as the Dorset Long Board, these highly polished planks of wood resemble nothing less than a miniature version of the cruise liner favourite, Deck Shuffleboard. Instead of the familiar nine scoring-beds of the more common game, in Dorset Shove Halfpenny wafer-thin coins are launched up a very long board, the aim being to land them in a close arrangement of numbered scoring zones at the far end.

These long boards are rare and treasured items. The wooden surface is very smooth, giving a true precision playing surface. So much so that the boards are never left out on show for fear of accidental damage. Hence you'll rarely see one in use other than on a match or practice night, and sadly this was the case at the Chapelhay Tavern. The bar staff and locals confirmed that a board was indeed kept at the pub, probably the only one in this neck of the woods, but unfortunately the licensee was not on hand to bring it down from safe keeping upstairs. Oh well! Maybe you'll have better luck when you visit.

Weymouth is a little outside what might be considered the traditional area for this unique version of Shove Ha'penny, and whilst I believe there is a small league for the game locally, I've no idea how much use the Chapelhays board gets these days. What does get a great deal of use though is the pubs Skittle Alley (below).


A prominent blue painted sign for the skittle alley is the first thing you notice when approaching the pub from the Quay. The well-appointed alley adjoins the main bar area, concealed behind a set of doors when not in use, and appears to have been a later addition to the original building. Skittles is popular throughout the county of Dorset, no less so at the Chapelhay Tavern where eight teams currently play from the pub in the 2016/17 Weymouth & Portland Skittles League, including the mighty Atoms Skittles Team (below).



4 comments:

John Penny said...

I note that the skittle set up has the larger pin on the front. Is this the norm? Where we play in the Yeovil League(s) the larger pin ('Landlord') is always in the middle. Some places I believe they refer to it as the 'copper'. No comment!

Mark said...

Just my cack-handed setup John. Of course the taller 'kingpin' stands in the centre in every skittles tradition where it appears. From the Weymouth league rule book: "...The front pin should be white both ends, the choir boys white one end and in addition the backer should be red both ends."

John Penny said...

Reading it all again Mark I am staggered that there is a 'Purbeck Shove ha'penny board' here. How, why etc?? Researching with the locals on the Swanage FB site thy came up with a list of those places with such an animal (THREE at the Con club!) and quite a lot of other places. Indeed; I was surprised and delighted, but I feel a visit or at least a local who is connected with the league would be the person to quiz. Research continues...

Mark said...

I'd love one myself, that'd be a head-turner down my local. I suppose I could try and make one, just need an incredibly smooth piece of timber....